Decision-making in agent-based modeling: A current review and future prospectus

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
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All basic processes of ecological populations involve decisions; when and where to move, when and what to eat, and whether to fight or flee. Yet decisions and the underlying principles of decision-making have been difficult to integrate into the classical population-level models of ecology. Certainly, there is a long history of modeling individuals' searching behavior, diet selection, or conflict dynamics within social interactions. When all the individuals are given certain simple rules to govern their decision-making processes, the resultant population–level models have yielded important generalizations and theory. But it is also recognized that such models do not represent the way real individuals decide on actions. Factors that influence a decision include the organism's environment with its dynamic rewards and risks, the complex internal state of the organism, and its imperfect knowledge of the environment. In the case of animals, it may also involve complex social factors, and experience and learning, which vary among individuals. The way that all factors are weighed and processed to lead to decisions is a major area of behavioral theory.

While classic population-level modeling is limited in its ability to integrate decision-making in its actual complexity, the development of individual- or agent-based models (IBM/ABMs) (we use ABM throughout to designate both “agent-based modeling” and an “agent-based model”) has opened the possibility of describing the way that decisions are made, and their effects, in minute detail. Over the years, these models have increased in size and complexity. Current ABMs can simulate thousands of individuals in realistic environments, and with highly detailed internal physiology, perception and ability to process the perceptions and make decisions based on those and their internal states. The implementation of decision-making in ABMs ranges from fairly simple to highly complex; the process of an individual deciding on an action can occur through the use of logical and simple (if-then) rules to more sophisticated neural networks and genetic algorithms. The purpose of this paper is to give an overview of the ways in which decisions are integrated into a variety of ABMs and to give a prospectus on the future of modeling of decisions in ABMs.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Decision-making in agent-based modeling: A current review and future prospectus
Series title Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.3389/fevo.2018.00237
Volume 6
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Frontiers
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description Article 237; 16 p.
First page 1
Last page 16
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